Friday, January 30, 2009

Sorry, Q - Maine Didn't Make The Cut

A few weeks ago, my brother's friend Quentin noted that I had written posts about historically bad teams in the NFL, NBA, and NHL, and had done Reverse Survivor for college football and basketball, but the subject of bad teams in college hockey history was totally untouched. Well, not anymore.

Using the standings at hockeydb.com (which I'm just gonna go ahead and assume are at least reasonably accurate), I made a list of college hockey teams that won two games or less in a season. The Ivy League and the state of Michigan are well represented.

If any are missing, or if any of these don't actually belong, feel free to let me know.

1949-50 Michigan State (0-14-0)

2002-03 University of Alaska-Anchorage (1-28-7)
1990-91 Dartmouth College (1-23-4)
1988-89 Brown University (1-25-0)
1974-75 Yale University (1-21-1)

1986-87 Dartmouth College (2-22-1)
1968-69 Princeton University (2-18-0)
1959-60 Cornell University (2-19-0)
1952-53 Michigan State (2-16-0)
1951-52 Michigan Tech (2-18-0)

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Cold Contagious

After "Glycerine", this is probably my favorite Bush song. The best part comes at the 3:05 mark.

You have no right to calm me down
You were never that around
And I have missed, I have missed

Cold contagious
All the mighty mighty men
What you save is
what you lose out in the end
Cold contagious
I know, that makes no sense at all. None of Bush's lyrics do. It's like Gavin Rossdale used a book of Mad Libs to write their first two albums. Yet somehow, it works. I probably have a greater appreciation for their body of work than I do for any other band.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Getting Beat And Learning A Lesson From It: A Novel Concept

I don't know why I didn't think of it before, what with all the ranting and raving over the 100-0 high school basketball game in Texas last week, but Lozo's post last night made me remember a team I played on that suffered a similar embarrassment and lived to tell about it.

It was in seventh grade. Early in the season, our "varsity" basketball team (the seventh and eighth graders) made the trip to nearby Hampton for a game. Two things I still remember: the court seemed about half as big as regulation (this place was tiny) and our opponents ran a brutal, suffocating full court press.

We were overmatched from the start. No contest. I was never a good basketball player, always the last guy off the bench. That day I saw plenty of action in the fourth quarter and was on the court when the final buzzer sounded with the scoreboard reading 70-10 in favor of the home team. One of their players, who I noted in later years to be one of those gentlemen who is so intense that he always appeared to be trying a little too hard to BE intense, clutched the ball in both hands, threw his head back, and screamed as though he had just won the NBA championship.

Later in the season, they came to our place. They were in our heads by now and the result wasn't much better, 50-16.

Eighth grade was different. Ben Wheeler had moved from Portsmouth to Rye and immediately became a game-changer, particularly on the defensive end. You know those blocked shots where the defender times his leap perfectly, gets his entire hand on the ball, and either spikes it or swats it about fifteen rows deep into the stands. Ben did that three times every game. He completely changed the way we matched up with opposing teams, especially those with talented young big men.

On the eighth grade trip to Hampton, we still lost. I don't remember the score, but I know it was at least closer than the sixty point difference of the previous season. We had Ben, more experience against that awful press, and weren't surprised by the size of the court.

Again, later in the season, they came to our gym. Our coach was running late and missed the first half, forcing one of the parents into action. Mr. Hodgeman, Billy's dad, took the reins and immediately put our offense into ball-control mode. We didn't rush, we didn't panic, we just sat and waited for a good shot. When it was there, we took it, then went back and tried to limit the number of good looks on their part. It worked: the halftime score was 8-8.

I can't remember the final score. I think we won, but even if we didn't, there was a valuable lesson in it. We got embarrassed, beaten up mentally and physically, and we refused to give in until we proved that we were better than the team that took the floor when we were seventh grade. Maybe that's the message that should be passed on regarding that 100-0 game, that if the losing team can come back next year and play even with their opponents for a half, or a quarter, or even a few minutes, that's just as good as a win.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

An Interesting Fact

I don't know how significant this is, but I find it interesting nonetheless: Barack Obama won the presidential election on November 4. My youngest sister's third child, Declan, was born almost four weeks later, on December 1, which makes him the first person in our family born in a country that had elected a black president.

Jordi got it right today when he called Obama's inauguration "the greatest American moment of the last 30 years." But I think he was approaching the issue with an eye toward our generation, those people under the age of 35 who before Tuesday didn't have a positive defining moment to point to in times of trouble and say, "See this day? This day is evidence of how great we once were, and can be again, if we just want it bad enough."

When I look at the election and the inauguration, however, I try to imagine how Declan and his sisters, Shakeira and Taliyah, will one day see it on a personal level, if they will appreciate what happened and the way it might have changed the course of their own lives. All three are biracial, and before November 4 and January 20, the idea of becoming president was just that - an idea. Now, it's a reality. They can literally dream of being anything they want, anything at all, even President of the United States, and know that hard evidence exists to back up those dreams.

Well, except for Shakeira and Taliyah. They're girls, see, and there's still never been a woman president...(which brings to mind an interesting question: if Hillary Clinton had won the Democratic nomination and the presidency, would I have written this same post about the girls and their suddenly limitless options?)

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

"I Do Solemnly Swear..."

YouTube did a cool thing yesterday, partnering with C-Span to provide videos of many presidential inaugurations dating back to Franklin Delano Roosevelt's in 1933. Through that, I found another video, about ten minutes long, containing audio and/or video of every president since 1933 taking the constitutional oath. It's a short oath, just 39 words if you count the unofficial "so help me God" at the end, but I'm sure if you asked each of those men they would place it among the most remarkable moments of their lives, that thirty second or so period of time where they officially became the leader of the greatest nation on Earth. There is never so much hope for the future as that moment when a new president swears to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

(My personal favorite is the first President Bush. He can't help but grin while repeating the "President of the United States" line at the 7:46 part. It was like watching a grown man realize that his childhood dream was coming true.)



President Obama is not included in the above video. His taking of the oath can be seen at the start of the video below and is followed by his inaugural address. Interestingly, despite Obama's typically stately manner, it comes off as the least polished of the lot thanks to Chief Justice Roberts, who apparently got his mords wixed.



The text of the speech can be found at UnionLeader.com. Some of my favorite portions are excerpted below.

"Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint."

"We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort - even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you."

"For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate."

"This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed - why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath."

"America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations."

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I Probably Need To Pay Closer Attention To My Favorite Sports

The Australian Open somehow got to the second or third day before I, a casual tennis fan, realized that it was underway. I am questioning my own fanhood.

Wimbledon was the scene of my birth as a fan, but the Australian might be my favorite event in the sport. Australia is quite literally on the other side of the world, sixteen hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time, which means that much of the coverage is perfectly timed for a night owl like me. Last year, the time difference resulted in an impromptu live-blog of the epic third-round match between Roger Federer and Janko Tipsarevic.

Will that happen again? Hard to say - on the one hand, one of things I enjoyed most about that post was its spontaneity. Planning for a live-blog is really no fun. Also, I have given up soda (and, by extension, caffeine) and tend to pass out on the couch before the clock gets too far past midnight. On the other hand, the baby is still sleeping through the night and I'm not working on Saturdays anymore, so I can sleep as long as I want on the weekends (well, as long as my wife wants me to sleep, anyway). Point being, you never know when I'll go crazy and try live-blogging a random Jankovic-Flipkens matchup.

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

What Does "He Is Man" Mean?

My wife and I are always on the lookout for good new television shows to supplement our current viewing lineup (for a long time, The Office was our only must-see program, and we also make time for ER and Law and Order SVU). Last fall, we watched the pilot episode of CBS's new crime drama The Mentalist and were instantly hooked. The title character, Patrick Jane, reminds me of Law and Order: Criminal Intent's Detective Robert Goren in a way, in that the writers have given both characters the ability to put together the details of a crime long before everyone else knows what is going on and to use that information to coax dramatic confessions from the most difficult of suspects.

The difference is in the actors behind the characters. Goren is played by Vincent D'Onofrio as an odd duck, the type of guy the baddies know they can get the best of - until they realize he is actually an observant genius who has had them figured out all along, by which point there's nothing to do but throw their hands in the air and give up. Simon Baker's Jane, on the other hand, is a handsome charmer, a former TV psychic who asks all the right questions at all the right times and pays attention to all the right details to arrive at the desired result.

Jane uses his skills to assist the California Bureau of Investigation as a consultant, but he is clearly driven by a deeper desire: the overwhelming need to find and punish Red John, the serial killer responsible for the murders of Jane's wife and daughter.

In a recent show, Jane met a prisoner who claimed to have information on the killer, information he would gladly share if Jane were able to prove that he had been falsely imprisoned and had not actually committed the crime with which he was charged. Jane did, of course, but the would-be informant ran, certain that although Red John might know his identity, he would be spared if he refused to provide any information to Jane and the CBI. He was wrong, of course, and the show ended with Jane finding him in a bathtub with a prostitute, both dead, Red John's trademark smiley face and a message - "He is man" - written in blood on the wall.

I was idly looking at the show's page at IMDB.com today and decided to look at the message boards, where those three words were the source of much discussion. Two great debates were evident: one, was the message written by Red John or the dead man in the tub, and two, what did the words mean? Many people seemed to believe that it was written by the dead man, that he was trying to tell Jane something about his killer. I 'm more inclined to think that it was written by whoever writes the smiley face. Presumably, that's Red John, but I can also see it as something that he makes his victims do as a final show of power before the end.

As for the meaning of the words, there were some weird ideas. One poster suggested that it was meant to say, "He is Manelli," meaning Virgil Minelli, Jane's boss at CBI. Someone else thought that maybe we didn't see the whole picture clearly, that maybe the latest victim noticed something about the killer such as a wedding ring and was trying to write, "He was married," when he died. And a third thought it said, "He is mad," which isn't entirely crazy because that's what I thought myself when I saw the show.

I'm sure all of those either weren't serious or the product of people who were at least trying to put the pieces together. At the very least, their thoughts inspired me to think about the question in a bit more detail.

First, I can't find video anywhere, so I'm gonna go with "He is man" as the official words on the wall. From that starting point, I thought about who we're dealing with here: the creator and writers of the show. What would they have meant by those three words? Certainly not Minelli - it would be too easy, not to mention strange that the killer would be someone Jane, a skilled evaluator of people, talks to fairly often. (Prediction: the killer will end up being someone Jane talks to fairly often.) And if we assume that Red John was the originator of the message, why choose something that might offer the slightest clue to his identity, even if it was an intentional misspelling?

"He is married"? Doesn't immediately make sense - who is married? Jane? Red John? The victim? Is Red John killing for moral reasons now? Is that the deal? And wasn't it Red John who authored the writing on the wall? Where am I going with this? I don't think it said, "He is married," that's where.

It seemed to me that if this is designed to be a series-long story, the writers might not be going for something literal, like a clue, but something abstract, a message from Red John to Jane, something designed to show Jane that he might be in over his head. With that in mind, I Googled the phrase, "He is man." Many of the results were related to religion, which was sort of the direction I was leaning, but I also found a few that mentioned Socrates. I added Socrates to the search string and came to the book "Socrates" by Alan F. Blum. The following passage was highlighted:

"The oracle does not converse. He says what is true (because 'it would not be right for him to lie') and thus, he depends upon human labour to 'check the truth' of what he says. In contrast, man converses and, because he is man rather than divine, depends upon other men to engage with him in 'checking the truth' of what is said. Whether or not he is co-present with friends is both that which his work addresses and that which it cannot guarantee. Dissatisfaction and unhappiness with the results of conversation derive from man's thinking him-self an oracle, from his thinking that he has the power and glory to name an other who will hear him as the oracle named Socrates."

Based on this, I think Red John was sending Jane a message. One of the minor points in the show is Jane's tendency to "show off". He's good at reading people, he knows it, and every so often the showman in him comes out and he surprises people with how much he knows just because he can. He presents himself as an oracle to these people, saying "what is true" and allowing them to check the truth. When Jane and a coworker are talking immediately after the discovery of the bodies, Jane notes that Red John was further ahead of him than he had realized. With the message, Red John was reminding Jane that he, Jane, is not an oracle. He does not have any great access to the truth regarding his, Red John's, identity. In reality, he knows nothing, which makes sense considering it was only the eleventh episode of Season One.

Or, I'm wrong and they're setting Minelli up to be revealed as Red John at some point in the future. Could go either way at this point.

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We've Had A Good Run, Soda. I'm Gonna Miss You

About nine hours ago, I posted the following status message on Facebook:

"Brian is honoring Barack Obama's promise of change by quitting soda as of Tuesday. No, really. He is. He put it on Facebook, it must be true."

This pronouncement was, of course, immediately met with an offer to help from my brother's girlfriend (note: bothering me about drinking soda will not make me less likely to drink soda), words of encouragement from my older sister, and a dose of reality from my wife (who knows better than anyone just how difficult a proposition I am making here.

My problems with the bubbly sauce go back to high school, when my mother would buy me several two liter bottles of Mountain Dew on her weekly grocery shopping trip. I had a mini-fridge in my room, so I didn't even have to venture into the kitchen to get a dose of the good stuff. In one of my weirder quirks on record, I would drink about half the bottle, then shake all the bubbles out and down the rest. Yes, I would intentionally create flat soda. Don't ask me why, there's no good reason. Later, when I worked at McDonald's, I became friends with one of the assistant managers, a jovial sort who swore by the Dew and always kept a stockpile in the walk-in refrigerator.

I've tried to give up soda before, usually on the heels of a huge binge. Last spring, I was downing three or four twelve-packs a week, an absolutely ridiculous total that I'm fairly certain was the cause of a liver abnormality that showed up on some routine blood tests my doctor had ordered. At some point, I decided I was killing myself with the sauce and decided to get clean and healthy up my lifestyle so I could maybe be around to see my kid grow up. It lasted until mid-summer, when I fell off the wagon. My drinking hasn't gotten quite as bad as it used to be, but it's still way too much.

So there it is: as of Tuesday night at 11:59, I am off soda. No "I'll just allow myself one bottle a day." No "I'll only drink it when we go out to eat." No "I can have a couple cans at the in-laws house during dinner." None of that. It's over.

As for motivations - obviously, Joey is a key one. Using him didn't work the last time, however, I think because I need something a bit more concrete. Thinking about being around for my son until he's at least my age is a little too abstract to have the necessary daily impact. So here's what I decided: since it was President Obama's campaign-long call for change that inspired me to fix this part of my life now, I'm going to use him to place a concrete time limit on my soda outage. For as long as he is president of the United States, I will not drink soda. Minimum of four years, maximum of eight. I know, it's a long time. As Vicki said today when I mentioned this to her, "You realize that means you might not have soda until you're thirty-seven, right?" (Actually, that was her second reaction. The first thing she said when I told her was, "Yeeeeeeeah." Like I said, she knows me better than anyone else.)

So wish me luck. I'm gonna need it.

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"With...And": Vantage Point

With...Sigourney Weaver
And...William Hurt

Solid. Weaver and Hurt could probably be classified as mid-major stars who have small but important parts in the movie. If I'm watching opening credits and I see those names pop up, however, it's not likely to make me any more or less interested in the overall film. The impact of their presence on the viewer is negligible.

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Appreciating The Magic Of The With...And

One of things I like best about movies is the credits, the end of the credits specifically, when they're running through the principal cast members. You get your stars, then your lesser stars, then your role players, then, at the end, if you're lucky, you get a decent "With...And".

You're probably wondering what a "With...And" is. Simple: it's the spot at the end of the credits where two actors are listed as a way of separating them from the rest of the cast, usually because they or their role in this particular movie doesn't fit with any of the other parts of the credits. "The Dark Knight" is a good example. Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman are great actors who had important roles in the movie, but not a ton of screen time. They probably don't belong with the top-billed stars, and they're definitely not lesser stars or role players, so you stick them at the end: "...with Michael Caine...and Morgan Freeman."

(Caine actually had second-billing in the credits, behind Christian Bale and before Heath Ledger, but it's still a good example since his placement there was based more on the fact that he's Michael Caine than on his actual part in the movie. He really belonged in the "With...And".)

Occasionally you get a movie with just an "And" (again, "The Dark Knight", where the credits actually read, "...and Morgan Freeman") or one with a "With...And...As" ("...with Michael Caine...and Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox). Rarely there may be one with just a "With", though I'm not sure I've ever seen it happen.

The quality of actors in the "With...And" usually tells you something about the overall quality of the movie. Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman? You know it's good. Hayden Christiansen and Shia LaBeouf? The existence of such a film would surely destroy the Earth.

Why am I going on and on about this? Because today I saw maybe the best "With...And" ever. We were watching "Tropic Thunder" for the second time (my wife fell asleep in the middle of last night's viewing) and I saw something I'd never seen before. At the end of the credits, we get: "...with Matthew McConaughey...and Tom Cruise as Les Grossman."

I had to appreciate that. McConaughey is maybe my favorite actor, mostly because he plays some variation of the exact same character in every single movie he is in. Even when he was the crazy dude in "Frailty", it wasn't tough to imagine him hanging around the local dive, thirty years old, hitting on high school girls. And Cruise might have revealed himself to be a tad crazy in recent years, but we'll always have "A Few Good Men" (and "Top Gun" is my wife's favorite movie of all time). So this particular "With...And" was kinda big. So big that it now holds the top spot in my personal rankings on the topic, which don't really exist right now (beyond #1) but might if I start keeping track of them in the future.

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Friday, January 16, 2009

My Favorite Movie Quotes, Volume 20

Tropic Thunder (2008)

Alpa Chino: And why am I in this movie? Maybe it's because I just knew I had to represent, because they had one good part in here for a black man and they gave it to Crocodile Dundee!
Kirk Lazarus: Pump your brakes, kid. That man's a national treasure.
Alpa Chino: I just wanted to thrown another shrimp on your barbie!
Kirk Lazarus: That shit ain't funny.
Kevin Sandusky: Hey, fellas... it's hot! We're tired! It stinks!
Alpa Chino: I ain't fuckin' with you, Kangaroo Jack. I'm sorry the dingo ate your baby!
Kirk Lazarus: You know that's a true story? Lady lost a kid. You're about to cross some fuckin' lines.
Kevin Sandusky: Guys, relax!
Alpa Chino: You know what? Fuck that, man! I'm sick of this koala-huntin' nigga tellin' me-
[is cut off as Lazarus slaps him; goes to punch back]
Kirk Lazarus: [blocking the punch and pulling Alpa into an embrace] For four hundred years, that word has kept us down.
Alpa Chino: What the fuck?
Kirk Lazarus: Took a whole lotta tryin' just to get up that hill. Now we're up in the big leagues, gettin' our turn at bat. As long as we live, it's you and me, baby...
Alpa Chino: [pulling away] That's the theme song to The Jeffersons. Man, you really need help.
Kirk Lazarus: Just because it's a theme song don't mean it's not true.

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Bizarro Hall of Fame: Introducing the Class of 2009

Every January, One More Dying Quail pays homage to those players who enjoyed successful major league careers, were rewarded with a spot on the Hall of Fame ballot five years after retirement, and faded away into history without earning a single vote. To date, more than 180 players have been enshrined.

Ron Gant – You can always count on Wikipedia to provide links to excellent information about everything you could ever want to know. In this case, we learn that Gant holds a very special spot in Rich Gossage’s life as one of only three batters he ever hit intentionally. The reason? “Because,” the Goose told MLB.com in May 2008, “[he] had it coming.”

I took the liberty of looking it up and can find no immediate evidence to indicate what Gant did to draw Gossage’s ire. The HBP came in the first ever meeting against the two, in the eighth inning of a game in which Gant was 0-3 with a walk and a run scored. Given the focus of the article in which the information appeared (Gossage’s dislike of demonstrative players in baseball), Gant probably pumped his fist after a good play or smiled at Goose or something wild like that.

Gant go the last laugh that day, immediately stealing second on Gossage and catcher Damon Berryhill. I guess Goose got the last laugh overall, though, since he was elected to the Hall of Fame and Gant didn’t even get a vote.

Dan Plesac – Todd Worrell, Mitch Williams, Mike Henneman…this is the group in which Plesac can now call himself a member, the modern relievers in the Bizarro Hall of Fame. He probably matches most closely with Henneman – both enjoyed just a handful of good seasons as closers, although Plesac lasted eight more seasons than the Tigers’ finisher.

Almost immediately after Plesac’s run as a decent closer ended, he morphed into a journeyman LOOGY, recording an out or two a game for Chicago, Pittsburgh, Toronto, Arizona, Toronto again, and Philadelphia.

Greg Vaughn – Two players in baseball history have hit fifty homeruns in a season and later failed to draw a single vote for the Hall of Fame: Brady Anderson (2008) and Vaughn. A confusing player, Vaughn put up strong numbers for three out of the four years between 1996 and 1999, then went to Tampa Bay. He hit for a little power there (28 and 24 homeruns) in his first two seasons before fading entirely in 2002 and 2003.

Vaughn was drafted five times between 1984 and 1986, including four times in the secondary phase. He made his major league debut as a pinch runner for Joey Meyer in 1989. The next day, he got the start in left field and doubled in his first major league at-bat. Following his second at-bat, a bases-loaded RBI single in the third inning, he was lifted for a pinch runner. On the day of his second start, Milwaukee’s lineup read: Paul Molitor, Jim Gantner, Greg Vaughn, Robin Yount.

This year’s vote was not kind to the Vaughn family. In addition to Greg’s Bizarro status, his cousin Mo picked up just six votes and will not be invited back onto the ballot in 2010.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Long Walk Home

Though my internal clock is set fifteen minutes behind the rest of the world, I hate to be late, and so was irritated as I pulled up to the stop sign behind four youths who were in no great rush to cross the street. We were already fifteen minutes behind schedule, which meant fifteen minutes fewer at the gym, where we already work out for thirty minutes less than we should every day.

The first kid sauntered across, fully aware that he was delaying traffic and there was nothing anybody could do about it, while the other two boys playfully tossed snowballs at the lone girl in the group. By the time I passed through the intersection, he was gone, across the street and onto the sidewalk on the other side. The two boys didn’t follow; they stayed on their sidewalk and threw wannabe-tough-guy looks at the guys in the Ford. The guys in the Ford threw back their best “Gimme a break, you’re half our age and we’re above this sort of crap” looks.

I followed the girl for several seconds while she walked down the middle of the street, finally seeing an opening and sliding around her and heading on my merry way. It wasn’t until two blocks later that the images fully processed: head down, hood up, shoulders slumped, no reaction when the two boys threw snowballs that exploded on her back. I thought she was part of the group. She wasn’t. She was outside the group, a loner, a loser, a nobody - until you needed somebody to throw snowballs at, in which case she would do just fine. I thought these were fun and games. They weren’t. They were a couple of bullies taking advantage of a weaker person, daring her to fight back, knowing she never would.

It was a sobering realization. I strive to be a supporter and protector of those who can’t support and protect themselves; what to make of the stark reality that this attitude, this compassion, only shows its face when I’m on the clock, and only toward those on my schedule? These guys are teasing you, young lady? Well, wish I could help, but we have a date with an elliptical, you see, and my carefully managed hourly schedule trumps your sense of personal security. Unless, of course, you can put a couple dollars in my pocket, in which case I will roll down my window and give those two little monsters an earful about proper etiquette, especially toward members of the opposite sex. Nothing in this world for free, young lady.

No. I won’t walk that road. But I will be more observant. Beware, juvenile delinquents of the world.

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Conversations With My Wife, Part 3

Vicki and I were watching the Golden Globes tonight. The following conversation occurred while the nominees for Best Actress in a TV Comedy Series were being announced:

ANNOUNCER: As the marijuana-dealing suburban mom, Mary-Louise Parker, "Weeds".
ME: There you go, that'd be a good side job for you.
VICKI: I wish...but I kill plants.

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

So, I Can Out-Negotiate The Ticket Taker At A High School Basketball Game. Go Me.

When I worked for the Nashua Pride*, one of the complaints we often heard from opponents of the team's presence in the city was that tickets were terribly, horribly, OUTRAGEOUSLY overpriced. It was a TRAVESTY! We charged EIGHT DOLLARS for a reserved seat! Oh, the humanity! The general consensus seemed to be that the price itself was an affront to the amateur foundations of beautiful Historic Holman Stadium.

*Every time I mention the Nashua Pride, I feel like David Wooderson talking about the way things were "in my day."

So imagine my surprise tonight when I decided to attend an amateur sporting event in the city of Nashua for the first time**. One of my clients was interested in seeing a basketball game, so we ended up at one of the local high schools; the varsity game didn't start until 7, which was too late for us, but we figured we could catch most of the JV tilt that was played beforehand. We arrived with about two minutes gone in the first quarter and I approached the ticket table just inside the doors to the gymnasium.

**It's ironic that I lived in the city for 4 1/2 years and never saw any non-Pride sporting event there. We move three towns over (four if you count that little itty-bitty piece of Hollis that sticks its nose where it doesn't belong on 101A) and suddenly I'm looking up schedules and making plans to attend regularly as an activity. Life is funny.

"We just want to watch the JV game for a little while. We won't be staying for the varsity game. Do we need tickets for that?"

"Yes, you need a ticket. Four dollars for adults, two for students."

Now I ask you, what is worse: paying eight dollars to watch a baseball game featuring professional athletes, many of whom played in the majors and high minors, or paying four dollars to watch a bunch of fifteen-year-old kids who played hard but had clearly not yet mastered the art of working for an open shot, looking instead like Paul Pierce c. 2006 with their uncontrolled moves to the basket? I vote for the professionals, although it was fun watching members of the opposing team knock around one of the home team's players, who ultimately impressed me as much as anyone with his tough play and hustle. If he sticks with basketball, number 12 is gonna be a solid player.

Anyway, back to the ticket guy. I am my father's child in many ways. The next thing that came out of my mouth was definitely learned from him.

"So, do you think I can pass for a student?"

Reminder: I am 29-years-old.

"Alright, it'll be four bucks total for the two of you."

Surprising, no? In all honesty, I wasn't looking for a break on the price - the four dollars included the varsity game, if we could have stayed to watch it - and ultimately paid the full amount. I'm cheap, but not cheap enough to cheat local high schools out of a couple bucks. But still, you know, it's the principle of the thing. Right?

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Thursday, January 08, 2009

My Favorite Movie Quotes, Volume 19

Uncle Buck (1989)

Miles: Where do you live?
Buck: In the city.
Miles: You have a house?
Buck: Apartment.
Miles: Own or rent?
Buck: Rent.
Miles: What do you do for a living?
Buck: Lots of things.
Miles: Where's your office?
Buck: I don't have one.
Miles: How come?
Buck: I don't need one.
Miles: Where's your wife?
Buck: Don't have one.
Miles: How come?
Buck: It's a long story.
Miles: You have kids?
Buck: No I don't.
Miles: How come?
Buck: It's an even longer story.
Miles: Are you my Dad's brother?
Buck: What's your record for consecutive questions asked?
Miles: 38.
Buck: I'm your Dad's brother alright.
Miles: You have much more hair in your nose than my Dad.
Buck: How nice of you to notice.
Miles: I'm a kid - that's my job.

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Friday, January 02, 2009

I Hereby Resolve

The New Year is here! In the days leading up to the beginning of 2009, I wrote down a few resolutions in my planner. These are by no means everything I want to work on in the next twelve months, but I think it's a pretty good start.

Be a better husband
My first words to Vicki just after the ball dropped were, "This will be a better year than the last one." She answered, "I hope so." I made a lot of mistakes in 2008, but we toughed it out, we made it through, and we're doing a lot better than we have in quite some time. We watched "Deep Impact" lately; I had seen it before, but this time one line caught my attention. Speaking of his wife, who died some time before, Robert Duvall's character says, "Every marriage has its good years and its bad years. We ended on a great year." 2008 was a bad year. It's over. I have a feeling 2009 is gonna be a great year.

Random YouTube: Kim Weston & Marvin Gaye, "It Takes Two"

Be a better father
Vicki said today, "It's a privilege, not a right, to be called 'Daddy'." Though she wasn't talking about me, it still applies. When I say I want to be a better father, I'm talking about the little things, mostly, like reading to Joey more and taking him outside to play and all that good stuff that I already do sometimes. I just think I need to do more of it.

Random YouTube: Family Guy - Stewie thinks Peter "Vanishes"

Be a better friend
I tend to forget to do the little things that make good friendships run, like being overbearing or forgetting to establish contact with a friend for weeks at a time and being irritated when they don't talk to me first. Pushing away friends is no way to go through life.

Random YouTube: Scrubs Best Friends

Work harder
"Work smarter, not harder" was once my credo, instilled by years of lower-level management at McDonald's. Somewhere, though, I forgot that hard work DOES precede success. You may not have to kill yourself every day to get somewhere in the world, but you have to actually put forth a decent amount of effort, and in the right direction. I haven't been doing that for years now. I lost my job with the Nashua Pride four years ago because I didn't focus enough energy and determination on sales; I stagnated at Target and MHS because they were jobs where I could go in and mindlessly coast through each day. I need more. I need to be better than that, so I'm gonna try to actually work harder at my current place of employment and see where that takes me.

Random YouTube: Where Amazing Happens: Hard Work

Figure out what I really want to do when I grow up and go after it
One of my coworkers constantly tells me that I've gotten myself stuck doing a job I don't like and part of my frustration is that I don't know how to get out or where to go. That's right, to a point. I like the nature of my job, the feeling I get when one of my clients is successful because of something I did to help them. There's just something about it, though, this little voice in the back of my head telling me that this isn't quite what I'm supposed to be doing, not quite where I'm supposed to be. The goal for 2009 is for that little voice to figure out how to fix those two dilemmas.

Random YouTube: Garbage - When I Grow Up

Get something substantial published in a reputable place
I can write well. I know it. The problem has always been coming up with timely, interesting topics. On a blog, I can shoot from the hip about anything that catches my interest. If I'm going to get something into ESPN or Sports Illustrated, I need to demonstrate an ability to sniff out a story in advance and run with it.

Write with more substance and thought
This blog had more than 400 entries in 2007, more than 250 in 2008. How many of those do you suppose were well-thought out, well-crafted articles? Maybe 10%? I want to keep doing some of the fun stuff, like Matt Forte vs. Kevin Smith, while working to turn out some longer, more thoughtful pieces.

Random YouTube: Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey - Carl's Wing

Come to grips with turning thirty
Less than ten months to go. Yikes. This is actually a big year for birthdays and milestones in my family: my wife and I turn 30, my younger sister turns 25, my mother turns 60, my nephew turns 10, my parents celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary, and my older sister turns...39. Almost perfect. It's actually not the turning 30 part that bothers me - no, it's that I feel as though I have accomplished little in my life so far. So basically, the plan is to make the next thirty years better and more productive than the first thirty.

Random YouTube: Oklahoma State Football Coach Mike Gundy Upset

Improve our financial situation
My wife and I were talking tonight about my siblings and their similarities to each of my parents when she unleashed this gem: "You used to be like your father, good with money, until you met me. I wrecked you." She went on to explain that I had always saved money and pay my bills on time, then she came along with her well-paying job and I followed her into the credit card trap; now, she says, she needs me to be like my father again and make our finances work. So I'm gonna try to do that. I expect my hair to be white by early August.

Random YouTube: It's A Wonderful Life bank run

Give up soda
Holy crap, I drink a lot of the stuff. Mountain Dew is my poison. I've made attempts in the past, most recently last summer, to kick the habit. This is the year it finally happens for good.

Random YouTube: Mountain Dew - Original Commercial from the 1960s

Give up fast food
In November 2007, I stopped eating fast food for an entire month. Don't ask me how I did it - I have no idea. All I remember is that I picked up something on my birthday, then resisted temptation until the need became too great and I grabbed a milkshake at McDonald's on the last day of November. Giving up fast food entirely probably isn't an option; if I try to do so, I'll just end up falling off the wagon eventually. Maybe limit it just to pay day, twice a month. Either way, it's one habit that needs to go buh-bye.

Random YouTube: Never trust on Ronald McDonald's

Exercise more
And the final step in my "Be More Healthy" set of resolutions. Gotta get off the couch and move around. We have a treadmill and weight machine down in the basement that need to be set up, and the streets around our apartment are helpfully equipped with sidewalks. Actually, one activity I'd like to start is walking to the library as a family. It's not very far and it would serve the dual purpose of getting us moving and exposing Joey to books. If I could find the time to get out and do it, I'd also love to look into joining a boxing gym. I know if you really dedicate yourself, they offer some intense cardio, which is probably what I need.

Random YouTube: Rocky 1 training

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Thursday, January 01, 2009

Kids Say The Darnedst Things

Our three-year-old niece Shakeira is staying with us for the night. We took her out to dinner and went shopping at Wal-Mart. She's been very well behaved while managing to display a little person's unparalleled ability to say the damndest things with a straight face.

At Wal-Mart, she and my wife had a conversation in the bathroom that I won't repeat here - let's just say it ended with my wife counseling Shakeira that there are certain words a young lady probably shouldn't use in public. Later, when Vicki called my sister so Shakeira could say goodnight, this transpired:

Anna: She's not saying anything else inappropriate?
Vicki: The only thing she said was "Dammit," in the car.
Shakeira: No I didn't.
Vicki: Yes, you did.
Shakeira: No, I said "Shit."

You have to appreciate such a devotion to accuracy.

Also, earlier in the evening, when we arrived back at our apartment, she suggested that I carry Joey inside so he didn't fall down again (he had slipped earlier and fallen in the snow). Playing the role of contrarian, I said, "No, I'm not gonna do it. He can walk," which was funny to me because Joey wasn't wearing boots or shoes, only socks. She advocated for him again, again I said no. Finally, exasperated, she rolled her eyes, looked at me, and said, "Fine, I'LL do it."

Remember: she's three-years-old.

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